POCATELLO — Bigfoot gave way to big adventure Wednesday night as “Survivorman” Les Stroud kept a packed house riveted as he shared stories about his life in the great outdoors.
As a youngster growing up in Canada, Stroud said he drew inspiration equally from Jacques Cousteau and Tarzan. He grew up to be a musician and an outdoors survival specialist. His “Survivorman” show began in 2000 and he has been on 59 adventures that became episodes everywhere from Alaska to the Amazon.
And Stroud really is alone on his trips of survival. He does his own camera work.
“I wanted to keep it real,” Stroud said. “It’s just me out there alone.”
Standing on some tables in the Museum of Clean Event Center, Stroud was able to bring life to his stories with his gestures and facial expressions. He even performed a song on his famous harmonica which has survived his exploits.
The filmmaker’s approach was informal and he used questions from the audience to fuel the direction of his appearance. Many of the early questions focused on his “Survivorman Bigfoot” series where Stroud is examining the possibility of a large mammal wandering around in the remote areas of the world.
“When it comes to Sasquatch, I’m still dealing with the unknown,” Stroud said. “I’ve never seen one.”
However, when he was doing the “Survivorman Alaska” episode years ago, Stroud did have an odd event happen which he shared with the crowd of about 300 people.
He was collected grass for a bed on camera when he heard a loud snap in the woods behind him. Stroud said the first thing he thought was grizzly bear. He had already turned off his camera it was lying about 20 feet away.
That’s when the first in a series of ape-like sounds came from the woods. Stroud imitated the sounds for the audience and shared that it happened five different times.
“Bears don’t make that sound,” Stroud said.
After some tense moments, something went crashing off into the woods.
“It sounded like a freight train going through the forest,” Stroud said.
A woman in the audience asked Stroud if he was scared while doing a more recent episode shot in British Columbia for the Bigfoot series.
“I’m no scaredy-cat,” Stroud said. “How about deep concern.”
The audience laughed. They laughed again when Stroud shared he had some deep concerns when he was confronted by a jaguar in the Amazon and had to spend the night in a tree in India because of a tiger.
“Big cats spook me,” Stroud said.
But one of the best stories he shared about the wonders of nature Wednesday night involved a Canadian lynx.
Before he ever started his television series, Stroud spent a lot of time honing his outdoor survival skills. One day in Northern Ontario, Canada Stroud was jogging down a trail and had stopped for a breather. That’s when he spotted something coming through the cattails toward him. He froze.
After a few seconds, a lynx came onto the trail about three feet in front of him. It looked at him and then turned to leave. Stroud said he reached down and called the lynx “like I would my neighbor’s cat.”
The animal turned and came to within a foot of Stroud’s outstretched hand before turning around and leaving for good.
“That was amazing,” Stroud said.
Moments like that are what keep Stroud going back into the bush.
Before he films each day he’s out in the wilderness, Stroud said he likes to take a moment to reflect on nature and draw on the notion his work is meaningful to other people.
“I have an agenda of connecting to the wilderness, to the earth,” Stroud said.
Sometimes the connections go a little deeper and involve people.
While recording some songs for his new album recently, Stroud took a coffee break at a nearby coffee house in Nashville, Tennessee and was recognized by a father and son. They had a chat and when the father and son left, the boy handed Stroud an envelope he said was from his mother.
“The mom wrote you don’t know what this means to my son,” Stroud said the letter stated. It then went on to describe seven years of an abusive relationship the mother and son had survived before she broke free and remarried. The letter told Stroud the little boy would often tell her mom that “if ‘Survivorman’ can make it, so can we.”
Stroud said it touched him deeply.
That prompted a question from the audience about Stroud’s own son, Logan, who had a close call with cancer.
“My son is free of cancer and playing hockey,” Stroud said with pride. “He scored 36 goals this year.”
Stroud said that loneliness was probably the hardest thing to overcome when doing a “Survivorman” episode. He said that usually about day four in an episode he has an urge to give up doing it. And although food can be scarce and he gets hungry, the biggest problem he has had following an episode is parasites.
Stroud said the jungle provides the greatest challenge because of the constant danger, and cold is the one thing he dreads the most. Fire is the thing he cherishes above even having a knife.
“So long as I can have a fire, it changes everything,” Stroud said.
Stroud saved one of his best stories for last. It too took place in Ontario before he ever did “Survivorman.” Out on his own, Stroud had canoed into a bay on a remote lake and hiked deep into the woods on a September day. While he was making his way out he came upon a feeding cow moose.
He decided to give a cow moose call to see how she would react. Stroud demonstrated the call for the audience and then told them the cow lifted her head, but went back to feeding. When Stroud did it a second time, she ignored him.
Stroud turned to leave only to see a massive bull moose crashing through the woods and glaring at him. Stroud took off with the monster bull in close pursuit. Finally, he managed to run up a leaning tree for temporary escape. But the bull didn’t give up.
“I don’t know if he was trying to make me his date or protecting his,” Stroud said.
Eventually Stroud was forced to wade along the shoreline of the lake and luckily flagged down a couple in a canoe to come to his rescue. He had survived.